Drummer Boy Costume

(Fur left) Roundway Down. SK: blue ensign of a regiment using a motif from its commander's heraldic arms instead of simple geometric shapes. (I.eft) Weston Super Mare, SK: white ensign with "pile" identifying the sergeant-major's company. (Right) Pendennis Castle, SK: a white-on-black colonel's company colour, carried by the recreated Sir Nicholas Slanning's Regiment.

Prince Ruperts Cavalry

(Left) Sccond Battle of Newbury, SK: ensigns of Prince Rupert's Regiment of Foot had a black and white quartered design with companies identified by numbers of open circles. At least four were captured at Naseby in 1645 (where, with some 500 men, it may have been the strongest Royalist unit of foot on the field), and were later recorded when paraded in London. Female regimental musicians, with a fife and a small side drum, are seen in the background wearing laced coats with open sleeves; boy and girl members of re-enactment units often take the field in this guise.

Drummer Boy Costume

(Left) Sealed Knot drummer boy of the King's Lifeguard of Foot in camp at Roundway Down. Each infantry company officially had two drummers; when the unit was drawn up for battle they, like their officers and sergeants, took post on the flanks of the blocks of pike and shot where they could - in theory - be seen and heard. Civil War drummers were not in fact boys; the drums were large and heavy, and drummers had a vital part to play in battle, beating signals to pass their officers' orders. They also still retained echoes of the medieval herald, being sent as envoys to parley with the enemy (and, if possible, to spy out his forces). These duties demanded maturity and intelligence.

(Right) Drummer, Colonel Valentine Walton's Regiment, ECWS, photographed at Basing House. Drummers' clothing was not regulated, but as they played an important part in the regiment's outward show the colonel normally paid for a more or less elaborate costume. One very common feature was the coat with opened, hanging sleeves. A sword was worn as a sign of military dignity rather than a practical weapon. This rope-tensioned field drum is of authentic size and weight, made of Dutch oak, goatskin and calfskin. It is carried by means of the silk sash - which can cut off the circulation after three hours' unrelieved carrying of the drum. Reproduction drums are purchased by regiments from specialist makers, and cost from about £ 130.

Boys And Drums

In theory a Civil War cavalry regiment was about 500 strong, divided into six troops. In practice it might have anything from 150 to (exceptionally ) 800 or more men, in from three to ten troops. A troop conventionally had one captain, one lieutenant, one cornet, a quartermaster, three corporals, two trumpeters, a farrier, and anything from 25 to 80 troopers.

Early in the war the Royalists, recruiting among the rural gentry and their followers, enjoyed advantages both in numbers and in quality of cavalry to offset Parliament's advantages in mercantile wealth and urban militia infantry. Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the King's nephew, was a brilliant and experienced cavalry general; his example dominated cavalry tactics for much of the war. By 1645, however, Parliament had patiently redressed the balance. The New Model Army cavalry - particularly the units formed from Oliver Cromwell's old Eastern Association regiments - were equal in all respects, and superior in discipline, to the Cavalier horse.

Although many cavalry units spent much of the war split up for dispersed garrison duties, their tactics when assembled for pitched battle were fairly predictable. The cavalry of the

Second Battle of Newbury: a veteran owner-rider trooper of Sir William Waller's Lifeguard, SK, presents the classic outline of a Civil War "harquebusier". It is difficult to obtain convincing-looking 17th century-style tack.

although there is a saddler in bareham, Hampshire, who makes reproduction bridles, and there is a move towards a standard bridle. Since horses cannot easily adjust to different bits these will remain modern.

opposing armies were almost invariably drawn up in one or two lines on each wing, flanking the massed infantry centre. At some point they would light each other, the winners then being free to return and take the enemy infantry in the rear and flanks. The normal cavalry unit formation was in three ranks, with one horse-length space between ranks, although Parliamentary cavalry at first tried a Dutch six-rank system.

Like the great Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, Prince Rupert favoured shock tactics - the thundering charge, sword in hand. Only when his troopers were in amongst the now-disordered enemy were they to use their pistols and carbines at point-blank range.

Parliament's leaders at first attempted a more deliberate Dutch style, sending their horsemen forward one rank at a time to fire into the enemy, weakening them for a final

Waller's trooper exercising on the morning before Second Newbury. He has a rolled blanket, cloak and fodder sack behind his saddle; a pair of pistols, with flask and pouch, in saddle holsters; and a slung flintlock carbine, copied from surviving examples in the Littlecote House collection.

Early in the Civil War most horses, certainly in the Royalist armies, would have been provided by their riders or unit commanders. The task of keeping armies mounted as the war progressed was enormous, and every means was used: central purchase, hire-purchase, compulsory regional quotas, quasi-legal confiscation, and outright theft. The cost of a cavalry horse varied between about £6 and £ 10 (for comparison: 10-16 days' pay for a captain, six to 10 months' pay for a soldier).

sword-charge. If charged themselves the troopers were supposed to hold their ground until the last moment before firing into the approaching enemy, then drawing sword to meet them hand-to-hand.

Royalist commanders seldom gave their opponents time for such complicated tactics; the unevenly trained Roundhead troopers could seldom stand their ground in the face of a Cavalier charge, and Rupert's regiments swept them from the field time after time.

By 1645, however, Parliamentarian units such as Cromwell's famous "Ironsides" had been patiently trained to keep their nerve and their discipline. They adopted the more manageable three-rank formation; and charged at a controlled pace, firing one of each man's pair of pistols at a realistic range, before closing sword in hand. Unlike the Royalists, Roundhead troopers were drilled to keep their heads and obey the recall trumpets so that they could make more than one charge, switching direction and target as the battle took shape. Their leaders had also learned - and increasingly had the resources - to hold back reserves to exploit an opportunity or turn back a threat.

Until the end of the war the blazing Cavalier charge might still win the hour - but not the day: typically, by the time they straggled back after chasing their immediate opponents across half a county, the Roundheads had regrouped and were cutting the surrounded Royalist infantry to pieces.

Mounted re-enactment obviously presents difficulties unknown to infantry units of the Sealed Knot and English Civil War Society. Only a small number of the overall membership are experienced riders, and even fewer can provide their own mounts. At a major muster it is normal to see one unit of 12 horse on each side, though for special events larger numbers can be assembled. There were 44 mounted re-enactors at the 1992 Edgehill muster; and the large combined SK/ECWS re-enactment of the battle of Powick Bridge in the same year saw 120 horse take the field.

The established cavalry regiments are Prince Rupert's Lifeguard of Horse and Sir William Waller's Lifeguard of Horse (SK), and Grenville's and Hungerford's Regiments

(ECWS); these units recruit nationally. In addition, a number of regiments of foot have their own cavalry or dragoon troops recruited from their own areas. The SK has a maximum of about 100 riders, the ECWS about 50; some transfer from infantry units, others are recruited directly into the cavalry. Each unit has a number of owner-riders, but most horses are hired for musters.

Two stables have particularly specialised in hiring mounts for Civil War re-enactments: Joan Bomford's Mayfield Stables, near Evesham, which has been mounting SK troopers since the 1970s, and Wilf Thomas's Pegasus Riding Centre near Abergavenny. Mayfield Stables can provide, e.g., 24 horses in two specialist vehicles, complete with grooms to care for and saddle the horses. (Muster organisers are expected to prepare a budget, and organise sponsorship, to cover the cost of horse hire and owner-riders' expenses, as well as powder, cannon transport expenses, on-site facilities, etc.; any profits are donated to charity.)

The Sealed Knot's Master of Horse visits the sites, checking suitability, vehicle access, water, grazing, secure areas, owner-rider facilities, etc.; he must bear in mind that horses which are not stablemates may not mix peacefully. The Saturday morning of a muster is used for training, tests, and allocation of mounts. Riders are tested to the level of the British Horse Society Grade 2 examination; and in their ability to obey cavalry commands, which are given in 17th century terminology. A rider experienced in another discipline, e.g. dressage, may not be suitable for service in re-enactment cavalry.

The horses do not have any special training prior to a re-enacted battle unless it is their first time out; in that case they will be ridden among troops with colours and drums, and will have swords brandished around their heads. Animals hired from the regular stables are already well accustomed to the sights and sounds of action, and have a calming effect on newcomers; most horses behave better in the company of others, particularly stablemates. Highly strung horses are avoided, and any animal which is being difficult is removed from the field.

(Right) Parliamentary trooper attached to John Bright's Regiment of Foot, ECWS, photographed at Clifford's Tower, York. Apart from the absent "lobster pot" helmet he wears full authentic equipment; the helmet would be replaced when possible by the more comfortable hat. The "harquebusier's" protective equipment included steel back-and-breast plates; a sleeved, long-skirted "buff coat"; and massive bucket-topped boots, which would be pulled up to cover the thigh when riding. The long, single-edged "backsword", slung here from a broad baldric, was a deadly weapon particularly against fleeing infantry - the greatest casualties were always suffered by defeated troops, and when given the chance cavalry turned rout into butchery. This example is of "Walloon" style.

The "buff coat" (like the baldric, this example is a copy of one used by Popham's Horse, which survive in the important Littlecote collection) was originally made from so-called "buffalo" leather, but in practice Civil War coats were of cow or ox hide. This was treated by an oil-tanning process which rendered it flexible and proofed it against decay or hardening -efficiently, to judge by the state of the several surviving examples after 350 years. The process also gave the leather a light yellowish shade; and as they could not be cleaned, coats were subsequently plastered over with an ochre dye to cover wear and tear, enhancing the yellow colour.

Even a poor quality Civil War buff coat was, at £ I 1 Os., costlier than a steel cuirass; and a fine example cost £10 - the same as a good cavalry horse. They could turn sword cuts, and some claim that they could stop a musket ball - though this can only have been at extreme range. At up to about 251bs. weight a cavalry coat was almost half as heavy as body armour, while allowing easier arm movement in the diagonal plane. This example by Mark Beabey is a superb reproduction of a Littlecote House coat using authentic materials, tanning methods and construction techniques.

Roundhead Soldier
Roundhead Sword

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  • swen
    How to draw a drummer boy?
    8 years ago

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